Electric bikes are undoubtedly the future of transport for many reasons. Anyone from elite athletes to the elderly can enjoy the benefits of electric bikes. In this electric bike buyer’s guide, we answer the question of which electric bike should I buy? We will also go through the various types of electric bikes, how to choose from them give you some insider tips for buying an electric bike.
What Are you Going To Use It For?
The first thing to do is to determine why you want an electric bike. There is an electric bike designed for pretty much any purpose, all with specific designs and characteristics to suit different purposes. For example, you may want something that will get you to the top of a mountain so that you can blast the gnarly mountain bike trails back down. On the contrary, you may just need something that will make your commute easier or to start a food delivery business.
Types Of Electric Bike
We will look into more specifics later, but taking a wider view of electric bike options, there are a few category’s of electric bike you need to know about.
Electric Mountain Bikes
Electric mountain bikes range from bikes that will allow you easily ride light off-road trails, to high-end enduro bikes that will make big mountain climbs and descents look effortless. When you choose an electric mountain bike, you need to think about the terrain you want to ride and your budget.
By determining the type of terrain you want to ride, you will be able to narrow down your choices.
The most significant advantage of owning an electric mountain bike is that it can help you get to the terrain you wouldn’t usually be able to get too. This may be due to your fitness level, or the profile of your local landscape. Is there a fantastic off-road loop that you want to ride, but is too long or too far away to reach on a traditional mountain bike? Well, an electric mountain bike is a perfect solution.
Electric Hybrid Bikes
As with any category of bike, there are many different electric hybrid bikes with characteristics that are better for specific uses.
You can buy electric hybrid bikes that are biased towards commuting on smooth roads. These look a little like road bikes with flat handlebars. You can also buy electric hybrids with fatter tyres, which allow you to ride on rougher terrain. These are generally more comfortable to ride too, due to their tyres and frame geometry.
The handlebars you find on hybrid bikes provide a comfortable upright riding position. This position gives you a better field of view, which makes them much safer for riding in traffic, as opposed to the round handlebars you find on traditional road bikes. Another advantage of these handlebars is that there is plenty of room for the controls. The speed controller, display, brakes and gears shifters all need a home.
You will come across electric hybrid bikes with mudguards and pannier racks, or at least have the provisions to allow you to attach them. For extra comfort, some electric hybrid bike manufacturers fit suspension forks to soak up the bumps in the road.
Electric Cargo Bikes
Electric cargo bikes are closely related to electric hybrid bikes. They are primarily bought by people that need to carry loads cheaply and efficiently, usually in urban areas. You can expect electric cargo bikes to have ingenious ways of carrying loads. They will often have cargo racks over both wheels, a long wheelbase or specially shaped frames. However, we are seeing more three-wheeled electric cargo bikes on the market now. These are perfect for making deliveries and carrying passengers.
Electric cargo bikes will usually have more powerful motors with higher torque ratings to help you carry the loads up steep urban hills.
Folding Electric Bikes
Folding electric bikes are perfect for commuting in busy cities. If you live or work somewhere where space is an issue, a folding electric bike could be the best thing for you. Their frame’s fold up in a matter of seconds, which means you can easily stash one under your bed, in a cupboard or next to your desk. By carrying your folding electric bike into your place of work or, home, you don’t need to leave it outside, meaning there is less chance of it being stolen. The other great thing about these bikes is that you can easily carry them onto public transport or the boot of your car.
Electric Fat Bike
If you are familiar with fat bikes, you will be probably more aware of the niche type of mountain bike. These are brilliant fun and feature massive squishy tyres. These tyres create a large contact patch with the ground, making them ideal for riding over snow, sand and soft mud, due to their large surface area.
However, the other advantage of these fat tyres, is that they make the ride very comfortable without suspension (although some fat bikes have suspension too). Therefore, there are a few electric bike manufacturers building commuter bikes with fat tyres. These are great, as you have comfort and grip while you ride, but you can also take them off-road or easily ride them on uneven terrain. This means you can commute on one during the week, but go and have some fun with it at weekends.
You can get some tremendous electric fat bikes that have a laidback riding position and an almost retro-style. These are called electric beach cruisers and are great for relaxing comfortable rides.
Classes Of Electric Bike
Your local laws will determine what electric bike you can ride, or if you need a licence and insurance etc. Here are the three classes you need to know about:
Class 1 – Pedal Assist / Pedelec
The most common electric bikes are known as pedal-assist or pedelec. As you pedal, the motor will give you some assistance, which boosts the power transmitted to the rear wheel. You have to put in far less effort than you usually would, even when you have selected a high gear. This system allows you to go faster and climb hills much more easily.
These bikes allow you to choose the amount of assistance you get from the motor. However, in Europe, Class 1 electric bikes cannot provide assistance over 25kph. In the USA, Class 1 electric bikes are limited to 32kph.
You can ride a class 1 electric bike on most roads and paths, and you don’t need to have a license or insurance. Class 1 electric bikes are the most affordable and are the most universally accepted by local laws.
Class 2 – Throttle
Electric bikes with a throttle work similarly to a motorbike or scooter. The electric motor drives you along without the need for you to pedal. Most electric bikes with a throttle allow you to adjust your speed depending on how much throttle you apply. This type of electric bike isn’t as common as pedelec bikes, and are banned in some countries.
The EU requires electric bikes only to provide power while you are pedalling. Therefore, throttle electric bikes are more common in the USA and China, where the rules are more relaxed.
Class 3 -Speed Pedelec
A speed pedelec bike works in the same way as a standard pedelec, but it can go much faster. They allow you to ride up to 45kph and are regarded as a motor vehicle in many countries. Therefore, if you fancy one of these, you may need to get a licence to ride one. These electric bikes are more expensive and are heavier, due to the more powerful motors and batteries. Their most significant advantage is that they allow you to keep up with traffic much more easily. However, you may not be permitted to ride class 3 electric mountain bikes on specific trails.
Hub-Motor or Mid-drive Motor?
Where an electric bike’s motor is mounted makes a difference to how it handles and its price. The electric motor can be mounted on one of two places, in a wheel or on the cranks.
Front Hub Motor
The most straightforward electric bikes have their motor fitted on the front wheel hub. These are generally the cheapest, but they are also the most limited. Front-hub motors are mainly fitted to throttle assisted electric bikes. This is because it is challenging to get power through the drivetrain when the motor is on the front wheel. With the extra weight at the front, cornering and handling are compromised. You won’t find many factory-built front hub driven bikes, but you will find this configuration on bikes fitted with conversion kits.
Rear Hub Motor
Rear hub motors can be used for both pedelec bikes and throttle bikes. You can often buy bikes that have both systems available, giving you the best of both worlds. There are also conversion kits that are built for rear hubs.
Rear hub motors are relatively inexpensive to build and are quite subtle in appearance, as they look similar to oversized hubs. However, these motors create an unbalanced weight distribution, which can affect handling. This is a definite consideration if you plan to ride a rear-hub driven mountain bike on, particularly rough terrain.
Mid-drive electric bikes have their motors located low down in the frame in between the cranks. This system offers more benefits than hub driven systems to a pedelec bike. These benefits include more torque, even weight distribution and better use of the gear range. Mid-drive motors use torque sensors, which means the harder you pedal, the faster you go. This automatically varies the assistance to match your pedalling intensity, creating a smoother and more natural riding experience.
How Much Are Electric Bikes?
As you can see, there are several variables to consider when buying an electric bike. All of these variables will impact on your new electric bike’s price.
If you are looking at buying an electric bike for commuting, you will undoubtedly save money by leaving the car at home or using one as an alternative to public transport. You will also get much fitter, as electric bikes keep you active. But, you still need to think about your budget, so how much are electric bikes?
Let’s look at some examples from Vansprint.co.uk of what is available at both ends of the market.
Electric Mountain Bikes
Currently costing £1,841.68, we have the Econic One Cross-country. This has a lightweight aluminium frame and is powered by a 250W rear hub motor. This bike is perfect for moderate off-road use thanks to its cross-country geometry and fork suspension. The motor is hooked up to a 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain. Combine this with a peak power of 500W; and this will easily get you to the top of most hills, either off-road or around town. But when it comes to riding back down those hills, you need to be sure that you have the stopping power. Therefore, this bike comes with Shimano BR-M6000 hydraulic disc brakes. These use a 180mm rotor on the front wheel and a 160mm rotor on the rear. This is a powerful system that gives you lots of control due to their great feel and modulation.
At the other end of the scale, we have the Greyp G6.3 Rebel FS, currently priced at £6,057.56. This electric mountain bike is packed full of features to make it almost futuristic.
The T700 carbon fibre reinforced composite frame makes the Rebel FS extremely tough, and this toughness is enhanced by the fact that it is a full-suspension bike. But, don’t be under any illusion that the suspension components are just cheap token items. The fork is the Rockshox Yari Boost Debonair with 150mm of travel, while the rear shock is the RockShox Monarch RT.
Its mid-drive motor has rated power output of 250W and 95Nm torque, which runs through a SRAM EX1 8-speed drivetrain. This features an oil-filled gearbox making it very quiet, low maintenance and vibration-free.
The additional features of the Greyp G6.3 Rebel FS are pretty impressive. The first thing we think you will like is that this bike is connected to the internet, giving you certain advantages. One of these advantages is that you can connect to it remotely with the phone app, and lock it remotely if it is stolen, you can also track where it is. The app also allows you to activate the onboard cameras to take a picture of where it is. These cameras can also be switched on at any time to record your epic riding in 1080p.
This bike is fitted with a display that allows you to easily plan your route, provide ride data, shows your battery status and displays your ride history.
Electric Hybrid Bikes
Priced at £2,094, the Econic One Cross-country Smart has a few additional features to the “non-smart” version that makes it perfect for city living. For example, you can track its location via GPS in real-time and activate the built-in theft alarm with the mobile app. The app will alert you if someone touches your bike, but it also allows you to lock and unlock it remotely. The discrete lock is fitted to the back wheel and prevents it from spinning when activated.
Folding Electric Bikes
Currently priced at £1,165.75, the BadBike AWY is an excellent folding electric bike for commuting. AWY stands for Always With You, which is a very apt name, as the compact size, means you can take it anywhere. The AWY is easy to carry on to the train or in your car. Its compact size also allows you to stash it easily at home or under your desk at work if space is a little tight. This electric bike is powered by a 250W rear- hub-driven motor, which is plenty of power for urban riding. It is very simple to use, as it folds in half in seconds, but the display and controls are intuitive and take the guesswork out of the technical side of riding electric bikes.
The AWY is very versatile, in the fact that you can fit it with rear bags, that are ideal for carrying everything you need for the day.
Electric Fat Bikes
The BadBike Beach is an excellent example of a beach cruiser style electric bike. This is powered by a 250w rear-hub driven motor and its relaxed riding position makes it ideal for leisure rides and comfortable commuting.
The 26” wheels are fitted with Juggernaut fat tyres, these give you a super comfortable ride on paved roads, but they also provide you with plenty of grip when riding over soft sand and dirt. To increase the Beach’s comfort, it features a seat post with built-in suspension to make your ride even more pleasurable.
Electric Cargo Bikes
Electric cargo bikes are very versatile, a great example of one these bikes is the Triobike Cargo Big Shimano Zee 10. This bike is priced at £5,047.97 and is an excellent alternative to a small van or car for delivering stuff. You can configure it in several ways too. For example, you can carry small pallets, or even fit it with seats making it perfect for travelling with a couple of kids. Its 250W motor runs through a 10-speed Shimano Zee drivetrain, making deliveries cost-effective and easy.
Other Price Considerations
Once you have bought your electric bike, you can accessorise it and buy things to enhance your electric bike experience. For example, you can buy an additional battery charger to keep at work; this would typically cost about £45. Alternatively, you could buy an extra battery, so you always have one charged. Prices for extra batteries vary depending on their voltage etc., but you can expect to pay close to £200 for a spare.
Other things you can buy for your electric bike are racks, panniers and mudguards, to make riding more convenient and comfortable.
Tips For Buying An Electric Bike
- Take manufacturer’s range figures with a pinch of salt
If you think about it, your bike’s range is unlimited if you do all the pedalling. The most significant factors determining an electric bike’s range are the profile of your journey and how fast you ride it. The best way to determine a bike’s range is to look at its battery energy in kilowatt-hours. Compare two bikes with similar drivetrains and power ratings, the one with the biggest battery will go further on a single charge.
- If you are buying an electric bike to climb lots of hills, go for a mid-drive bike
Hub-driven motors are excellent for riding on flat ground effortlessly, but they are not incredibly efficient on steep climbs. This is because it is optimised for one speed, making them inefficient as they tend to overheat. Mid-drive electric bikes use the bike’s gears in unison with your pedalling, making them more efficient on flat ground and steep hills.
However, if your budget will only stretch to a hub-driven electric bike, you will still feel the benefit of electrical assistance.
- Understand the battery numbers
Batteries are described by their voltage(V) and amp-hours(Ah). You will mainly see batteries with either 36V or 48V, and they will be between 8 and 20Ah. Check out the equation below:
Watts = V X Ah
If your bike has a 36V 10Ah battery, it has 360Wh of energy. Therefore, if your motor is a 360W motor, it will last 1 hour.
- Don’t buy his n’ hers bikes
If you ride with your spouse, don’t be tempted to buy the same bike, unless you are the same weight and fitness. A lighter rider doesn’t need as much power as a heavier one; therefore, women tend to prefer electric bikes with a little less power, but with smoother power transfer. There are lots of women specific electric bikes on the market.
You may also find that the frame geometry isn’t right for both of you, or you have different expectations of the type of riding you want to do.
Which Electric Bike Should I Buy? -Answered!
With all this information you have a lot to think about, but your starting point will be your budget and what you want to use your electric bike for. In this electric bike buyer’s guide, we have broken down the things you need to think about and given you some great examples from our online store.
If you are still struggling with what electric bike to buy, contact our experts who will gladly discuss your requirements and make some excellent recommendations.